the remodeled life

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“Open during remodeling”, we have all seen the signs.

Our neighborhood grocery store has been open during its recent remodel. In fact, they are still remodeling and rearranging.

Every visit has been a new experience as aisles have been moved and exchanged in favor of newer fixtures and a promised improved layout. The grocery store’s goal is to make shopping more eye-catching and functional.

At this point, most shoppers are just plain cranky and confused. Bread should be where it has always sat and not where the condiments used to be. I try to initiate conversation in whomever cashier’s lane I land and if appropriate to other shoppers. Over the past 6 weeks, those interactions have been tense and without a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings.

However this past week, I caught the eyes of a fellow shopper as I was hunting for non-dairy yogurt options and she exclaimed, “I can’t find anything!”

I smiled back at her with a chuckle and said, “Well, it certainly is a scavenger hunt at times!”

She stopped her cart from rolling past mine and remarked, “That is a better way to look at this mess. Much better than my attitude!” I assured her I had done plenty of grumbling on both our behalf.

Life is a lot like my neighborhood Fred Meyer store’s remodeling project. Just when I knew where all my favorite brands resided and could easily traverse the landscape in ten minutes tops, it underwent a renovation without asking my permission.

Any type of remodeling can be confusing and time-consuming especially when it involves your life.

Over the last 15 months since I started a job, I wrote less on this blog but when I did write, my assumption is I spent a lot of time bemoaning the loss of my former life. (I haven’t checked, but I am certain it is a good guess.) I wandered up and down the aisles of my life and I couldn’t find anything familiar or in its place. I most definitely didn’t view those early months as a scavenger hunt.

In the last couple of months, the office building where I work has added two women and if lined up, the three of us each represent 10 to 20+ years of being outside the paid workforce. It has been a comfort to look into each other’s faces and speak the same language, voice the same fears and feel the identical weight of remodeling a life.

I have discovered a newfound community at work every bit as much as among muttering shoppers. Everyone wants to know their feelings are not unfounded or isolated.

If you are dipping your toes into a new body of water, these are my words for you today.

  • You are not alone. Look around, take your eyes off the shelves of missing items and scan your surroundings. You may discover fellow pilgrims walking the same aisle.
    You will recognize them as they bear the same glazed look you wear 🙂
  • Give yourself time. Remodeling takes time. Usually it bleeds over set deadlines. This cliché is true, take it one day at a time. There is only ever one Day One, just keep amassing days towards regaining your footing.
  • Extend yourself grace. Some days you will blow it. You will make a mistake at work. You will oversleep and the world around you can tell. You will yell at someone in anger or forget an appointment. Take a deep breath, survey the collateral damage and move on. The same bad day rarely repeats. Don’t be so concerned with doing everything well that you forget the only requirement is to live a real life not a perfect one.
  • Keep life very simple. Hold fast to home routines. Make the people within your four walls the most crucial priority. Simple meals, simple clothes, simple chores (YES), and simple schedules.
  • Ask for help. Most of us do a bang-up job of looking like we have it all together. When in reality, we are hanging on by an ever-fraying rope. It is more obvious during a crisis for others to reach out but during life-rearrangement, struggle can be unseen. I have found text messages to be my saving grace and have been blown away by the expediency of others wanting to meet my needs. When someone asks, say yes please. I repeat say yes please. Pray. Even the most basic one-sentence plea, can create an unfathomable amount of peace as your burden is placed squarely on unshakeable shoulders.
  • Cling to the habits/routines which make you who you are. If you are a runner, run. If you are a book lover, read. If creating a cake brings you joy, bake. If a noisy office drives you bonkers, find quiet. Get in the habit of asking yourself what’s missing that could benefit your days. Two areas I grieved when I started back to work were my morning routine and walking. This loss has shown up in my life in external and internal ways. It has taken me a year to realize I was frantic because those areas were absent rather than I couldn’t possibly add them to my days because I was so frantic.
  • Rest.  On Instagram, I use the hashtag #faithfulfridayrest. Friday is my day off and I have tried exceedingly hard to make it a day of rest. Rest could be sleeping in (although I am not that great at it anymore), reading a book, extending my devotional time, going to a movie alone or with a friend or spending time with a friend. This is what a rainy Friday looked like with Courtney:
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    Unexpected perk for short girls: Luxury Loungers. Translation: No dangling feet!

    I try to resist the urge to “catch up on everything” on Friday. I overt my gaze from the clutter and dog fur lingering in corners. Most of all, I relish in being what most would call being lazy. If that is what you want to call it than I am going to re-brand the word and banish it from the bad word list. I embrace being lazy. It’s perfectly fine to not be perpetually busy.
    On Sundays, our family practices a Sabbath rest. I have written about it a lot over the years. I viewed it as stopping everything related to working.
    However, last year our church spent a year focus called practicing the rhythms of grace. One of those practices was Sabbath but they called it Celebration. I was humbled to realize I had not considered taking a Sabbath as a time of celebration. An hour, a half-day, a day or longer of rest is much cause for celebration. A chance to celebrate all that God has brought us through during the week and in all the ways He has made Himself present within the course of those days. It is very easy to turn any practice into a drudgery. This year, I have been looking at rest as celebration. I now think of resting as doing my lazy dance.

Sometimes our days are laid out for us like the clothes we will wear the next day and other days, we simply cannot find any article of clothing to match.

I pray you hunt well and don’t wander around feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.

Because you don’t hunt and search alone.

The remodeled life can be like a scavenger hunt of reclaiming sought after items.

But if your scavenger hunts were anything like the ones of my youth, often the person beside the open door would announce,

“I don’t have that particular item but I have this. Will this work instead?”

In the remodeled life, you get to decide what works for you and what to leave behind.

Choose well, my friends.

 

 

turning fifty

Birthdays are an interesting phenomenon aren’t they?

There is the prerequisite build-up until the day arrives

complete with marching band excitement and yet

once the confetti is swept up and freed from your hair,

you realize you don’t feel much differently than the day before

or even last month.

This is how turning fifty has felt.

The months leading up to this big birthday have included

celebrating friends turning 50

and they have celebrated me.

I feel incredibly

rich from the experience.

Honestly I feel like I still reside in my 40’s.

Perhaps not 40, as I had an 11 month old tyke

at the time

and sleep was elusive.

Within that expanse, I felt ancient and

my dependence was more on coffee than

eternal things.

But that is another story.

So this exchange of decade zip codes

hasn’t shifted the core of me only added

two new digits.

I want to share what I am hoping to bring

into this landscape.

There will be no mention of hills

especially going over them.

Celebration

Perhaps it is the introvert in me or that

I am a bit reserved and don’t often like

center of attention moments.

I tend to push away personal celebrations.

I have done quite a bit

of celebrating and it’s been good.

Really good.

Celebration has reached down deep into my

soul and mended some broken places I

wasn’t even aware existed.

Often I downplay the “big deals”

in my life.

I have been wrong.

Isn’t it humble to brush aside offers to celebrate?

When I have proclaimed celebrating unnecessary,

I waved a flag with stitching

revealing I wasn’t important enough to laud.

Now to some of you, this might sound

preposterous because you are always

ready to form a conga line.

For others, you recognize the depths

I describe.

You might even recall the silent ache when those big days or

occasions pass and you stumble upon

the fact that crickets are not festive

or a worthy companion.

Life in all its big and small ways

provides reason enough to raise a ruckus.

We are meant to be celebrated.

We point back to the Creator when

we raise a glass of cheer.

Let there be celebrating.

Enough

Most days begin with me at our table before

a large window with a strategically placed

bird feeder in one of the trees.

The other morning, between sips of tea and writing,

a squirrel was attacking the bird feeder.

I would pound on the glass

and the gravitational pull would hasten his return.

The feeder had been half full of suet but by the time he left to make

way for the birds, there was only a small chunk in the corner of

the cage.

Okay this ticked me off.

Do you remember this photo?

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This image was floating through my mind when birds landed

for their morning meal.

I was grousing about the shameless greed of that squirrel taking what

belonged to the birds.

Yet as I survey the birds,

I didn’t see a single one with their wings on their hips

in dismay.

They were getting their fill of food.

By the way they were sailing between feeder

and limbs, they seemed quite delighted.

There was enough.

Social media can be like a picture window

to lives we weren’t originally supposed to see.

Years ago, I wouldn’t know who got a book deal

or whose blog post was being widely circulated.

I wouldn’t have known how many exotic vacations

someone took or even what you did while I was

on the couch streaming a movie.

It wouldn’t be so easy to succumb to feeling

I don’t have enough or that I am enough.

The truth is people aren’t greedy squirrels

and none of us are going to stop posting

the beautiful moments of our days but

I want to live like a bird who considers

crumbs a feast.

We have a family saying from way back…

Be content with what God sent.

I am grabbing hold to the truth of being and

having enough until it is firmly planted solidly

in my soul.

Sometimes the best way to move forward is

to look backward.

There are two areas that continue to make my

heart beat, one faster and the other slower.

Welcome

This word has played ping-pong in my spirit

for years.

I desire to be a person of welcome.

Many times those introverted tendencies take

over but at my core, I know I was created to

be welcoming.

For my birthday,

I asked “the powers that be” namely my family for

a bench.

It is designed to accompany something special which I will share

with you soon.

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So this is me moments after Carl put the bench together.

If I am honest, I almost didn’t post this picture.

It’s not my most flattering picture,

I am not standing behind someone to show

only a partial view of me.

Our backyard grass resembles straw.

Heavens  it has been a hot summer and

I do believe any make up I was wearing has

melted.

I am learning that welcome has nothing

in common with perfection

and looking put together.

Welcome is being open to  showing your good and your

not so great sides.

Welcome is a bench made for people who are

dry in spirit,

sad, happy,

chubby, skinny,

desperate

and  weary.

I hope to sit on that bench

and I pray my neighbors will as well.

You are my neighbor.

Rest

More than any topic I wrote about on this blog,

the most read posts are the ones about rest.

I have talked about it for years because I was desperate

for rest of any kind.

A friend recently wrote me and said when she thinks of me,

she thinks of rest.

Now before you consider this clever wording as code for

meaning she finds me boring and promptly needs a nap,

it referred to conversations we’ve had about the supreme

importance of rest.

I plan to be greedy about resting and

consider yourselves warned,

I will continue to remind you as well.

Dearest 50,

You have come wrapped in packages filled

with celebration,

contentment,

welcome and rest.

Thank you for the marching orders.

May the only arthritis I bear be in my knees

and not in my heart or soul.

Deal?

Gratefully yours,

 

Helen

 

surprise landings

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Last Sunday, our family took a trip to the beach.

Only we never laid eyes on sand.

We were so happy all five of us could spend a day together taking in the cool breezes

and getting lost in the sound of the crashing surf.

We also wanted to take our dog to the beach for perhaps her last time

to play tag with the waves.

Five individual schedules aligned but collided with too many other details

to document here but the end result was traffic.

After two hours in the car and not making progress,

we took a quick vote and decided to try and find a lake.

Google Maps to the rescue.

We found a lake however,

it was late to find a prime spot with some shade.

We had prepared for the beach and not blazing sun.

Translation: we had grabbed sweatshirts and not sunscreen.

We had an umbrella which burrows easily in the sand but

not so well in hard soil supported by driftwood and rocks.

Once we set up “camp” very much off the beaten path,

(and we had quit our muttering)

a dragonfly landed on Carlen’s chair.

Just like my thing for ladybugs,

ditto for dragonflies.

We took pictures and selfies.

Our disappointment in the change of terrain dissipated

by a winged creature’s chance landing.

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This beauty wouldn’t leave and when the time came (Carlen wanted her seat back)

I tipped the chair and found

a tall blade of grass to hasten its departure.

We lasted only a couple of hours and the heat was really hard on

our pooch Hazel.

We drove home from a different destination than we had

envisioned but we left full of the deposit made into

our memory banks.

Now we have  lake memories to add to

the other ones of dragonflies

landing in our midst.

I wrote a post 3 years ago describing two different

dragonflies landing on our house and staying for hours

or in one case 2 days.

When I revisited this post, although I can be quite wordy,

I was extremely wordy back then.

Feel free to read those words but in case you would

like the Cliff Notes, read on.

We questioned why those dragonflies landed and remained.

The answer was revealed in a Google search in ten words.

Dragonflies need to stop and rest,

just like everyone else.

As much as I love watching dragonflies

zoom across the air and marvel at their

beauty and grace,

because of these past sightings,

they also remind me to rest.

Make rest your destination.

Last Sunday our destination was more

than a beach, it was to spend time as a family.

A lake, a beach or even a backyard could accomplish this goal.

Rest isn’t always an easy road.

There can be many obstacles and detours needed

to find the place of rest.

Seek rest no matter what it looks like.

I think rest is very much off the beaten path.

Eventually I hope rest will become a well-worn trail

for the majority.

If a dragonfly needs rest,

so do you.

Wherever you travel,

may you be filled with

the priceless deposit of rest.

 

making up for lost time

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I have packed 3 suitcases in 4 weeks.

4 if you count Caleb’s suitcase.

It has been a month worth of trips devoted to celebration of family,

friendship and milestone birthdays.

On either side of the miles traveled,

there have been beautiful meals shared

in terrain where infant pears clung tightly to branches

and bobbing and weaving between bites as

white puffs of cottonwood  filled the

air like cotton candy.

Selfie attempts were warranted and perhaps unsuccessful.

My heart is saturated with people and  conversations

and with unblemished joy of being numbered among so many I cherish.

The sights my eyes have beheld continue to replay in my daydreams and

I marvel at the hushed utterances of such grace, such blessed and sacred

time.

After the bags were unpacked and laundry piles began to subside,

I did what I always do.

I made a list.

A list of all that needed to be done.

You know the list I am talking about.

The list called making up for lost time.

I wanted to accomplish some chores but I also wanted

to rest up and refuel.

Caleb was away visiting his Grands so my week

could be more concentrated on the multitude of tasks before

my eyes.

Each day I crossed off an item or two.

Most mornings, I set a later alarm.

After several days,

I felt more tired than when I stowed away

my luggage.

Then I read this:

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.
You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

~Dallas Willard
(as quoted in this book)

Despite my efforts to keep my days one part productive

and the other part relaxation, my pace had been a

hurried rush.

I was trying to make up for lost time.

I live my days if I am always making up for lost time.

But what is lost time?

Would I consider a trip to see family,

lost time?

Would I ever tell a friend,

“Yes, let’s get together for coffee

even though it will mean I am losing

time according to my grand list of to-do’s” ?

No, it is called spending time with others.

It is all about adding priceless gems to our lives,

not squandering it.

There is no such thing as making up for lost time.

Time is continuous and is meant to be spent.

Making up for “lost time” is as futile as trying

to gather sand in your arms.

There is simply today and the minutes

we determine to use in the course of our day.

Seems I recall Jesus saying to let tomorrow take

care of itself.

Don’t hurry.

Don’t worry about that which remains undone.

Caleb comes home today.

(Oh how I miss that boy!)

The last few days have been different.

I have slowed down.

In case, I didn’t get the message, I also have

a troublesome knee which makes me take

each step with care and gratefulness.

So what is your hurry today?

What’s your worry?

There will never been an end to laundry and

cooking and bill paying.

There will be another weed to pull as soon as I loosen

ten roots.

I apologize for stating the facts.

As much as I dream,

I will never read every great book written.

There is today,

a gift to be used and not hoarded.

A gift to be cherished and celebrated.

Spend it well and don’t deem it as

moments that demand being redeemed later.

Simply cash in every second with sweet abandon.

 

photo credit: Carl Washington 

top soil

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The other night I did a bit of speed gardening.

It probably is just as effective as speed golf.

The light of day will reveal what was hastily planted in twilight.

There were plants from a school plant sale which needed

homes in pots and flower beds but all I have been able

to manage for the past few weeks has been to stick a finger

in the soil to assess their water needs.

My front yard beds looks a bit weary, neglected

until every last nail was pounded into

our new roof.

There are bare spots from plants choosing not to make an appearance.

I circled my fingers around stems and removed the dead leaves

and debris.

I loosened the soil, added top soil and watered.

I suppose looking for his wayward wife,

Carl walked through the driveway gate

and found me looking at the flower bed.

We both agreed it was vastly improved.

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Flowers with emerging blooms seemed to stand straighter.

Heavy bloomers leaned in closer to their supports.

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I am weary and suspect most of us live in a perpetual state of weariness.

This morning I read Matthew 11: 28-30 in two versions.

These verses are so familiar, they can float off our tongues without much effort.

Just like my gardening, I can speed past the words attempting to accomplish

a very necessary task.

This morning, God cleared away the dead stuff in my life through confession.

He circled my frame and added rich nutrient full soil on top of my present

earth foundation.

I stand a little taller and feel His support ever so much.

Jesus wants to carry me and my burdens not only

because He is strong but primarily because He loves me.

He encircles me with enough love to help me rest from all

my labors even those done with minimal light.

My garden will never be completed.

My walk along the various soils of this

earth has yet to be completed either.

I can assure you neither me nor my garden

will be featured in a shiny magazine.

There will be weeds, there will be flowers, there

will be death and there will be life.

Some days turning away from tasks

undone is the best and deepest kind of rest.

The best way to feel loved is by letting

someone with more able hands do the work.

Read and be reminded.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest. 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, 

for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls. 

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.*

  *****

Are you tired?

Worn out?

Burned out on religion?

Come to me.

Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.

I’ll show you how to take a real rest.

Walk with me and work with me—

watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.

Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.**

*New International Version
**The Message